Saturday, April 18, 2015

UN Sustainability Development Goals Graphics

In the year 2000, the United Nations began their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – a list of 8 identifiable, measurable goals – to tackle the problem of poverty in the Least Developed Countries.  These goals included cutting the number of people in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 a day) by 50%; primary schooling for all boys and girls; reducing child mortality by 2/3; etc.  These goals were to be attained in 15 years – 2015 – this year.

Many of these goals were reached.  Extreme poverty was actually reduced by 50% by the year 2010 – 5 years ahead of the goal period.  Other goals were not met but were close to being met.  Of those that were not met, they came closer to being met than if the goals had never been set.  As a result, the MDGs have been a tremendous success

Now in 2015 the United Nations is migrating from an emphasis of the MDGs to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the years 2015 to 2030.  These SDGs will be for the entire world – the Most Developed Countries as well as the Least Developed Countries – such as the United States and Australia.  There are 16 major SDGs which will be presented to the full body of the United Nations in September for their official approval. 
The success of the MDGs was primarily the result of the collaborative work of the Non Government Organizations (NGOs), the civil society sector, with the UN Agencies of UNICEF, UNESCO, WHO, etc.  However the success of the SDGs will require the collaborative efforts of all sectors of society – government, business, civil society, and education.  These 16 SDGs present a good all-inclusive set of goals that cover the broad spectrum of what is included in the label “Sustainability”. 

(I should mention that the United Nations has defined Sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  Another way to look at Sustainability is “What do we need to do today to insure that we are just as viable 50 years from now?” 

I have created and attached a graphic which lists the 16 Sustainable Development Goals in an attractive, artistic way.  These include the currently identified problems of water, climate change, income distribution, oceans, sustainable cities, etc.  


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

World Peace Promoted Most by Non Religious

In today’s (January 6, 2015) The Guardian, there is an editorial entitled “If Peace On Earth is Our Goal, Atheism Might Be the Means to That End” by Adam Lee.  It is a great article revealing several results of various polls on religious societies and non-religious societies throughout the world.  The comments are sufficient themselves to press their points so I am just going to excerpt quotes from it.

“In America, millennials are the largest and least religious generation in the country’s history. The trend toward secularization in the US mirrors the movement in Europe and throughout the developed world. And poll after poll have shown that the nonreligious also lean more progressive and more pacifist on a wide variety of issues relating to violence: torture, the death penalty, corporal punishment, military adventurism and more.”

“A Pew poll from 2009, well before the Senate released its devastating torture report last month, asked whether torturing suspected terrorists could be justified found that the non-religious were most opposed to torture, with a combined 55% saying that it could rarely or never be justified. Gallup has also found that people with no religious preference are less supportive of the death penalty than any group of Christians. The non-religious are also among the most likely to say the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. The religiously unaffiliated are also less likely than Christians to believe that the US is superior to all other countries in the world, a hyper-patriotic attitude that’s hardly conducive to careful reflection about the use of American military power.”

“Religion’s violent tendencies also tend to be reflected in its adherents’ personal lives. The social scientists Christopher Ellison and Darren Sherkat found that conservative Protestants disproportionately support the use of corporal punishment, such as spanking or whipping, for children. The researchers speculate that this stems from theology: Christians who promote a literal interpretation of the Bible tend to believe that human nature is inherently evil, and that sin demands severe punishment. What’s more, the Bible itself (among itsmany other bloody verses) specifically calls for beating children in verses such asProverbs 13:24. (By contrast, freethinkers like the famous American orator Robert Ingersoll recognized the cruelty of corporal punishment as early as 1877.)”

“As long as humanity was in thrall to the violent morality of religious texts, our societies were warlike and cruel. As the American revolutionary Thomas Paine said, belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man. It’s only in the last few decades, as we’ve begun to cast these beliefs off, that we’re making real moral progress.”

“The influence of the non-religious shows is also evident on an international scale. The nonprofit group Vision of Humanity publishes an annual Global Peace Index, which ranks countries on a broad spectrum of indicators, including violent crime, incarceration rates, weapon ownership, and military spending. Sociologist Phil Zuckerman summarizes their results in his new book Living the Secular Life:”

“...according to their most recent rankings, among the top ten most peaceful nations on earth, all are among the least God-believing – in fact, eight of the ten are specifically among the least theistic nations on earth. Conversely, of the bottom ten – the least peaceful nations – most of them are extremely religious.”

The article goes on to say that not all religious people are violent, and not all non-religious people are non-violent.  But it mentions that Unitarians and Quakers especially have “played an important role in peace movements”.  The article also mentions that there are “prominent atheists like Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens who have been entirely too cavalier about imperialism and military aggression.” 

The article ends with, “But in general, the trend is that, as the world becomes less religious, we can expect it to become even more peaceful.

David Kimball

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Humanism and "Into the Woods"

Humanism and the musical “Into the Woods”

 A popular movie musical that has just come out is “Into the Woods” with lyrics by Steven Sondheim.  It is always good to see humanistic thoughts and values which are expressed by popular media that is outside the realm of the Humanist community. 

Part of the storyline tells of how a witch has taken a child, Rapunzel, and raised her as her own.  Rapunzel says to the witch who has raised her in isolation in her tower:

“I am no longer a child. I wish to see the world.

The witch pleads with Rapunzel to stay with her, and stay a child rather than go out and observe life for herself and to experience life in a cold, dangerous world.  This is very true to the Biblical metaphor of a god not allowing Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  And this is true of many religions today who create a strong inclusive community who are afraid of their young people to go out into the world, the out-group, but would rather keep them inside even if it means keeping them in “blissful ignorance”. 

“Don't you know what's out there in the world?
Someone has to shield you from the world.
Stay with me.

Princes wait there in the world, it's true.
Princes, yes, but wolves and humans, too.
Stay at home.
I am home.

Who out there could love you more than I?
What’s out there that I cannot supply?
Stay with me.

Stay with me,
The world is dark and wild.
Stay a child while you can be a child.
With me.”

In Humanism many of us believe that each human has the ability, and the responsibility, to determine what is right and what is wrong for ourselves.  We are not to take our values, or our beliefs, or our moral behavior from some outside source whether that be a religion, or a political party, or a guru, or even a parent.  Parents have the responsibility to teach their children to develop the skills necessary to develop these areas personally – not as a dictum from some outside authority.  Psychologists have often shown how religion acts as a surrogate parent which continues to control a person long after they have become independent of their biological parents. 

This song from “Into the Woods” does a good job of showing the harm done by sheltering and over-protecting a person even though the motivation and intention by the “parent” is well-meaning. 

For example, religious people and churches sometimes prefer to keep their kids out of public schools lest they be presented with the ideas of evolution and sex education.  When I was a kid, although the commandment was from my parents that I shall have no friends except those from my church, the church obliged by making sure that I was so busy that I had no time for activities or friends outside of the church.  Sunday had Sunday School, then the service, then Sunday evening service.  Monday had Stockade – a “Christian” boys scout.  Wednesday had prayer meeting.  Thursday had Mission Society meetings.  And Friday had Youth Group.  And then of course the church had special events whenever the school had special events like Halloween or the Prom – these were to keep us from wanting to go to an event where there might be dancing. 

And of course, today, religions aren’t the only outside influences in our society which tries to prevent people, young or old, from experiencing the world themselves.  Today there are groups like the Tea Party groups, or the FOX Entertainment (I refuse to call it FOX News) group that prefer to tell people how to think, which values to eschew and which values to promote, and how best to judge other people. 

People, young and old, need to be shown how to create their own values, what to believe in terms of reality, how to formulate their own personal world view, and how to shape their behavior in terms of these beliefs and values.  The direction should come from within a person, not from without.  And this is one of the things that Humanism is about.

David Kimball

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Let It Go – A Humanist’s Perspective

I don’t have children and so I only have heard “Let It Go”, from the movie “Frozen”, one time – when I saw the movie when it first came out.  However I have heard that others, especially parents, have heard the song so many times that they are actually sick of it.  I read an article the other day that the producer of the movie actually felt the need to apologize for the success of the song to the point where it has gone far beyond the amount of appreciable saturation by the normal adult.

So I decided I should view the lyrics of the song.  I was surprised when I read them that they seemed to describe my experience at coming out from my strong religious background and proclaim myself a Humanist.  For those who have only heard the song, and haven’t dwelt on the words, here are the words to the song.  After these lyrics, I will explain how they parallel my experiences.

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen.
A kingdom of isolation,
and it looks like I'm the Queen
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn't keep it in;
Heaven knows I've tried

Don't let them in,
don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel,
don't let them know
Well now they know

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore

Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don't care
what they're going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway
It's funny how some distance

Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all

It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I'm free!

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You'll never see me cry
Here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let the storm rage on

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I'm never going back, the past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on

The cold never bothered me anyway!

I was always told to be the “good boy”, and my church told me what behaviors would label me as such.  I was told to “conceal, don’t feel” and to be dishonest in my feelings, and especially my doubts.  I was told not to let them, the church and Bible College, know of my doubts. 

Then I decided to let it go.  I turned away from my religion and slammed the door behind me.  I no longer cared what they said about me or to me.  I didn’t mind their cold, icy responses. 

After a while, looking back, it is funny how small those once-big things, like salvation, and Scripture memorizations and regurgitations, seemed once I was looking at them from a more proper prospective.  The fears of Hell, and judgments beyond my death that once controlled me, no longer bother me at all. 

It’s time to see what I can do without the restrictions of religion – to test the limits of my own development .  No one outside of me telling me what is right, or what is wrong, and without the need to follow particular rules for my behavior.  By my living according to my own values of developing all that it means to be human both in myself and in others, I will be much better than I was obeying someone else’s rules.  That is freedom for me.

Let it go, let it go.  I am one with the wind, and sky, and earth, and other humans and all beings that are a part of this evolutionary parade.  You won’t see me cry – even if I am pushed to my limits.  Here I will stand and will stay as the religious ones create such a storm around me. 

“One thought crystallizes like an icy blast/I’m never going back, the past is past.” 

By freeing myself of my religious past, I will rise like the break of dawn as the “good boy” is gone.  My goodness is no longer an adjective – it is a noun.  I am now goodness because I am doing good for others, not for my reward in some heaven. 

Here I stand in the light of day and in the light of reason.  I’m letting the beliefs in the supernatural go.  Let the storm of the supernaturalists rage on.  Their bluster doesn’t bother me now. 

After reviewing the words to “Let It Go”, I came up with this observation:  One of the best things about Humanism is when one finds the precepts of Humanism being promoted not from the bowels of the Humanism community, but from the thoughts and feelings of humans themselves. 

David Kimball

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Science of the Brain - Altruism

I have written in several blogs here about the amygdala – a part of the brain located in the experiential brain (as opposed to the rational brain in the frontal lobes).  The amygdala is the seat of certain emotions including what we have talked about for years as the “fight or flight” syndrome.  But with scientific tests of functional MRI’s (fMRIs), the amygdala is seen as the seat of many emotions and the function of empathy. had an article about the amydgala and altruism today.  “The amygdala was significantly larger in the altruists compared to those who had never donated an organ. Additionally, the amygdala in the altruists was extremely sensitive to the pictures of people displaying fear or distress.”
Many people who believe in different religions hold that altruism only comes from a god.  Howver, science is showing that altruism, and empathy are natural effects with natural causes.  And this raises the responsibility that those of us who are dedicated to developing ourselves and others need to be aware of this function of the brain so that we can develop altruism and empathy in ourselves as well as others. 

The article also tells of tests of the amygdala showing a lack of a developed amygdala in psychopaths.  Which again, in practical terms, shows us why when people are convicted of crimes, and have a less-developed amygdala, they should be sentenced to serve time in an environment where their amygdala can be developed rather than an environment where their amygdala will shrink even more. 

We can learn a lot about ourselves and other humans from the science of the brain.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Interfaith and the United Nations

Interfaith Dialogue and Human Rights with UU-UNO (United Nations Organization)

I received this post from the UU-UNO (United Nations Organization) which is affiliated with the UUA.  It brings out an important aspect in that often we have large prejudices with the whole concept of religion.  Often generalizations are made that do not include progressive religions nor even mainstream religions.  This also emphasizes my former blog that Secularism is NOT anti-religion.  Secularism is to rid governments of being influenced by religions.  But it is not designed to remove religion from various cultures.  For instance, the Indians in Mexico have a right to celebrate their heritage and culture including their religious practices.  However, they do not have a right to influence the Mexican government for favorable treatment.  And also, the Mexican government does not have a right to selectively enact laws which are detrimental to their culture. 
Religion tends to have a bad rap in the media. When people think of zealous religious figures, terms such as “bigot” or “xenophobe” often come to mind. A group of religious non-governmental organizations met at the United Nations on Friday, August 29th, 2014 to discuss putting an end to this trend. The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) sponsored the interfaith dialogue workshop, entitled “Interfaith Progressive Values Promote Universal Human Rights” as part of the 65th Annual UN DPI/NGO Conference. Co-sponsors included Muslims for Progressive Values, the NGO Committee on Human Rights, the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace, and Security, the Tzu Chi Foundation, Soka Gakkai International, Won Buddhism, and Buddha’s Light International Association.

In the workshop, participants emphasized that, while faith is important, it should not stand in the way of basic human rights. Debra Boudreaux, Executive Vice President of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, spoke of her dedication to Buddhism, but said her foundation will help any kind of person, not only Buddhists. Kamila Jacob, representing the UU-UNO, told the workshop that her drive for social justice is put into action by her faith.

Hiro Sakuri of Soka Gakkai International voiced his regrets that there is no longer an interfaith conference at the United Nations. In 2005 he established an interfaith conference at the UN, with support from 75 member states, 15 UN agencies, and a set of religious non-governmental organizations. Following this development was the first ever General Assembly high-level dialogue on inter-religious communication for peace. However, the interfaith conference no longer occurs since members of certain agencies and organizations have left. Now, he struggles to find committed people to bring this conference back to life.

Ani Zonneveld, President of Muslims for Progressive Values, addressed the conflict that occurs between religion and human rights. She proposes that it is not religion itself that creates tension with human rights, but men’s interpretation of it. Of her own faith, Islam, she said “Sharia law is the interpretation of that divine inspiration [Sharia] by men of patriarchal society.” Zonneveld clarified that Sharia is the spiritual path of Islam. However, Sharia law has been warped by the values of the time (centuries ago) when it was enacted and the cultural issues it conflicts with today.

The UU-UNO affirms the Unitarian Universalist belief that there is inherent worth and dignity in every individual. Humanity is diverse in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and religion, and the UU-UNO recognizes and embraces this fact. The UU-UNO wants to foster interfaith dialogue so that no religious groups stand in the way of the rights of individuals. We must be aligned in what is true, what is right, and what is good.

The UU-UNO recognizes that if religious groups are to succeed in protecting human rights, a greater degree of dialogue and cooperation in the future is essential. The workshop cast a look at what such a future might entail. Members attended from a plethora of religious groups – Jewish, Humanist, Catholic, Atheist, and a variety of others. The UU-UNO is hopeful that interfaith dialogue will continue as we need unity to secure fundamental rights around the world, rather than the division that has plagued religious dialogue in the past.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Humanism and Humanitarian Aid through the UN's Millennium Development Goals

As Humanists, we are often quick to point out the need for humanitarian aid.  We should be just as quick to be knowledgeable about the efforts of humanitarian aid.  The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals are a set of goals set by the UN in the year 2000 and set to expire next year, in 2015.  The progress towards these goals has been phenomenal.  Few people realize that extreme poverty was cut in half by the year 2010 – 5 years ahead of schedule.  Few people are aware of the other goals which have already been reached.  And few people are aware of the goals that are not on track to be met.

This is one of the last “scorecards” of the MDGs as the MDGs will be phased into the Sustainability Development Goals for the years 2015 and Beyond.  It is refreshing to hear of what has been done rather the constant din and roar of what needs to be done.  This work in the civil sector has been accomplished through the collaborative efforts of over 25,000 Non Government Organization (NGOs), some governments, and some organizations in the business sector. 

The bullets below are shown here to give an overview of the “scorecard” for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  For more detailed information, read the accompanying paragraphs below.  For charts and data by global sectors for even further details, view the full report at the following web site:  

From the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report for 2014


 The world has reduced extreme poverty by half

Efforts in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis have shown results

Access to an improved drinking water source became a reality for 2.3 Billion people

Disparities in primary school enrolment between boys and girls are being eliminated in all developing regions.

The political participation of women has continued to increase

Development assistance rebounded, the trading system stayed favorable for developing countries and their debt burden remained low


 Major trends that threaten environmental sustainability continue, but examples of successful global action exists

 Hunger continues to decline, but immediate additional efforts are needed to reach the MDG target

Chronic undernutrition among young children declined, but one in four children is still affected

Child mortality has been almost halved, but more progress is needed

Much more needs to be done to reduce maternal mortality

Antiretroviral therapy is saving lives and must be expanded further

Over a quarter of the world’s population has gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, yet a Billion people still resorted to open defacation

90 per cent of children in developing regions are attending primary school


 The world has reduced extreme poverty by half

In 1990 almost half of the population in developing regions lived on less than $1.25 a day.  This rate dropped to 22 per cent by 2010, reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty by 700 million.

Efforts in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis have shown results

Between 2000 and 2012, an estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria were averted due to the substantial expansion of malaria interventions.  About 90 per cent of those averted deaths – 3 Million – were children under the age of five living in sub-Saharan Africa.  The intensive efforts to fight tuberculosis have saved an estimated 22 Million lives worldwide since 1995.  If the trends continue, the world will reach the MDG targets on malaria and tuberculosis.

Access to an improved drinking water source became a reality for 2.3 Billion people
The target of halving the proportion of people without access to an improved drinking water source was achieved in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.  In 2012, 89 per cent of the world’s population had access to an improved source, up from 76 per cent in 1990.  Over 2.3 Billion people gained access to an improved source of drinking water between 1990 and 2012.

Disparities in primary school enrolment between boys and girls are being eliminated in all developing regions.
Substantial gains have been made towards reaching gender parity in school enrolment at all levels of education in all developing regions.  [Note:  This is “developing regions” and not “Least Developed Countires”]  By 2012, all developing regions have achieved, or were close to achieving, gender parity in primary education.

The political participation of women has continued to increase
In January 2014, 46 countries boasted having more than 30 per cent female members of parliament in at least one chamber.  More women are now holding some of the so-called “hard” ministerial portfolios – such as Defense, Foreign Affairs, and the Environment.

Development assistance rebounded, the trading system stayed favorable for developing countries and their debt burden remained low
Official development assistance stood at $134.8 Billion in 2013, the highest level ever recorded, after two years of declining volumes.  However, aid is shifting away from the poorest countries.  80 per cent of imports from developing countries entered developed countries duty-free and tariffs remained at an all-time low.  The debt burden of developing countries remained stable at about 3 per cent of export revenue.


Major trends that threaten environmental sustainability continue, but examples of successful global action exists
Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) continued their upward trend and those in 2011 were almost 50 per cent above their 1990 level.  Millions of hectares of forest are lost every year, many species are being driven closer to extinction and renewable water resources are becoming scarcer.  At the same time, international action is on the verge of eliminating ozone-depleting substances and the proportion of terrestrial and coastal marine areas under protection has been increasing.

Hunger continues to decline, but immediate additional efforts are needed to reach the MDG target
The proportion of undernourished people in developing regions has decreased from 24 per cent in 1990 – 1992 to 14 per cent in 2011 – 2013.  However, progress has slowed down in the past decade.  Meeting the target of halving the percentage of people suffering from hunger by 2015 will require immediate additional effort, especially in countries which have made little headway.

Chronic undernutrition among young children declined, but one in four children is still affected
In 2012, a quarter of all children under the age of five years were estimated to be stunted – having inadequate height for their age.  This represents a significant decline since 1990 when 40 per cent of young children were stunted.  However, it is unacceptable that 162 Million young children are still suffering from chronic undernutrition.

Child mortality has been almost halved, but more progress is needed
Worldwide, the mortality rate for children under age five dropped almost 50 per cent, from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 in 2012.  Preventable diseases are the main causes of under-five deaths and appropriate actions need to be taken to address them.

Much more needs to be done to reduce maternal mortality
Globally, the maternal mortality ratio dropped by 45 per cent between 1990 and 2013, from 380 to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births.  Worldwide, almost 300,000 women died in 2013 from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.  Maternal death is mostly preventable and much more needs to be done to provide care to pregnant women.

Antiretroviral therapy is saving lives and must be expanded further
Access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV-infected people has been increasing dramatically, with a total of 9.5 Million people in developing regions receiving treatment in 2012.  ART has saved 6.6 Million lives since 1995.  Expanding its coverage can save many more.  In addition, knowledge about HIV among youth needs to be improved to stop the spread of the disease.

Over a quarter of the world’s population has gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, yet a Billion people still resorted to open defacation
Between 1990 and 2012, almost 2 Billion people gained access to an improved sanitation facility.  However, in 2012, 2.5 Billion people did not use an improved sanitation facility and 1 Billion people still resorted to open defecation, which poses a huge risk to communities that are often poor and vulnerable already.  Much greater effort and investment will be needed to redress inadequate sanitation in the coming years.

90 per cent of children in developing regions are attending primary school
The school enrolment rate in primary education in developing regions increased from 83 per cent to 90 per cent between 2000 and 2012.  Most of the gains were achieved by 2007, after which progress stagnated.  In 2012, 58 Million children were out of school.  High dropout rates remain a major impediment to universal primary education.  And estimated 50 per cent of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas.

David Kimball